Summer Spectaculars At Risk
After the incredible support shown to the Wightlink Warriors following their withdrawal from speedway's National League (NL), news that the plans for the summer spectacular of racing are at risk will come as a huge blow to many fans across the UK, and especially our loyal fans and supporters on the Isle of Wight. The reason is not Covid this time, or a lack of interest, but it's a lack of suitable riders who are concerned at the threat of possible sanctions.
Warriors Co-owner Barry Bishop explained, "After the news that the Directors of the British Speedway Promoters would allow amateur status riders to come to the Isle of Wight to participate in our events, everyone associated with the club was delighted, and the feedback from the public was that it was a great move for the sport and rider development. With riders literally chomping at the bit to ride on the Island to improve their skills, get more track time and competitive racing under their belts, we now find that the BSPL appear to view the NL riders contractually in the same way as Premiership and Championship riders even though NL riders are classed as amateur and not professional, with clubs stopping riders from coming to the Island. If you recall, we were delighted that a way forward with the BSPL was found as the NL has always been presented as amateur with riders being paid effectively expenses but this, we are told now is not the case and NL riders have the same professional status as Premier and Championship riders.
To be honest the threats being made to some riders should they come to the Island are really very sad to see ranging from receiving bans or fines for stepping into the stadium (to support us) to participating in a meeting that "could lead to a ban or a fine" - and even practising at Smallbrook could incur the same measures being imposed which is in complete contradiction to what the regulating body have told us. Only yesterday, another new reason for refusing permission to ride emerged when the charging of entrance fees and payment of riders became an issue. With full medical cover and ferry costs to meet, along with all the other costs of a stadium, why wouldn't we charge spectators to watch an evening of entertainment?
The future now is unclear with riders being prevented from racing by rules that the BSPL clubs and riders do not appear to be aware of - there is no defined statement. The Warriors are being prevented from entertaining our fans which will include some of the expected large number of holidaymakers this year, and our sport overall goes a little further downhill.
In an ideal world, there needs to be a public statement from the Speedway Control Bureau (SCB)/BSPL immediately telling riders what the rule is with regards to coming to the island as even non contracted riders are hesitating about coming over. All BSPL riders are self-employed and permission from their promoters to do other events may not be unreasonably withheld and coming to the island would be in our view be no different than participating in a grass track, road race, motocross, banger racing, international events and other Nora events. It should not be the case of you can only do one or the other as riders are being told.
With the recent dreadful news of Somerset closing, we cannot understand why the BSPL would want to prevent riders racing, fans being entertained, sponsors being advertised, and another club prosper/saved. Perhaps it is the opposite they wish for?
We would like to say that we are happy to meet with the BSPL to discuss things, we have spoken to the Speedway Control Bureau (SCB) and Auto Cycle Union already. However, we are continuing to work on our options and are in constant dialogue with teams that have committed to support us in Challenge matches and who in our view are vital to the future of the sport, and an update will be issued as soon as more information is available and a revised start date".